Is your school ready for an LMS? – Planning, leadership and expertise
Author: Peter West
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Leading an educational organisation into the world of modern teaching and learning requires more than an ad hoc, short term vision.
A clear vision
Leading an educational organisation into the modern world where technology is used to enhance teaching and learning via the introduction of an LMS requires a long-term vision and strategy. The leadership of the organisation:
- needs to have a clear vision of where they want it to be in the next five or more years
- needs to have a clear and detailed plan on how to get there
- needs to be ‘serious’ about the change
- must be prepared to provide the infrastructure resources necessary to make the change
- must be prepared for the long term, regular professional development on how to use the LMS and create effective online courses
- must commit to long term, regular professional development on how to teach differently using the LMS and online materials
- then needs to clearly articulate this to all.
When all these things are in place, success may result.
What sometimes happens
If you have been teaching for a reasonable time, you would have encountered a ‘new plan’, an initiative that was going to change the organisation – which then disappeared after six months or a year. This may have even been followed by another, different ‘new plan’ or urgent need for change – that also then disappeared within a year or two (or less) before being abandoned without being completed.
Where this is the change paradigm, staff get used to it and sometimes choose to ‘wait it out’. They don’t take it seriously as they think it will disappear in the near future. This has a significant impact on the mood for change within an organisation. It encourages remaining with current, ‘tried and tested’ approaches to teaching and learning.
Nobody can blame teachers and other staff for this response. It is logical, and teachers are too time poor and too focussed on doing the best for their students, ensuring their courses and assessment are engaging, rigorous and appropriate. They do not want to expend energy in areas that will prove to be a waste.
This short term, ‘shallow think’ approach is an indicator of the failure of the leadership of the organisation. Teachers and other staff are right to treat the change with caution, to waste minimal energy in implementing the ‘change’, and to treat the concept with disdain.
Long term planning and preparation vs ‘shiny’ technology
The LMS must also be introduced to solve an educational problem. It must place teaching and learning first rather than introducing it just because it is 2020 and many other schools already have one.
It mustn’t be a ‘shiny’ new technology with the expectation that teachers will then ‘work out’ how to use it in the classroom later. The goal of improving the classroom and teaching and learning must come first. The LMS must be an enabler of improved education in the form of ‘real’ blended learning. It is a tool to achieve an end; it is not an end in itself.
- The blended learning strategies that will be implemented must be known before implementing an LMS.
- The professional development of staff must be already occurring before or as soon as an LMS is introduced.
- The structure and composition of the learning materials must be determined and communicated before the LMS is introduced.
- The hardware provided in the classroom, provided for teachers and expected of students must be determined and communicated before an LMS is introduced.
Ignoring these vital components of the learning ecosystem that the LMS helps to facilitate shows failure on the part of the leadership of the organisation.
Support for change
The move to technology-enhanced learning via the introduction of an LMS needs to be well supported. As well as a sound strategy to implement the change, there should be a long-term commitment – funding, training and support of teachers to provide knowledge and skills, maintaining a clear vision of what is expected for an extended period and not losing track that the technology is there to support people. The technology must always remain secondary to ensuring education remains ‘human’.
What happens sometimes
Sometimes change is ‘supported’ by an implementation program that is less than optimal. Sometimes it comes in the form of a series of presentations to staff, a couple of initial workshops, a document or two that outlines the change, and then people are left to ‘get on with it’.
Sometimes the innovation will require years to become a part of the fundamental fabric of the organisation, but the training and support disappears or is replaced by another ‘priority’ quite quickly.
Leading by example – real commitment
Real change requires the active participation of the leadership of the organisation. Staff and students need to know that the leadership is committed – committed enough to participate in training; committed enough to actively participate in the change.
How many times have you seen a leader of an organisation who espouses using technology to improve teaching and learning, yet they are uncomfortable with the technology and seem unable to use even the basic parts?
This is an area where words are not enough.
Staff will soon work out whether leadership is really committed to the change or whether they are semi-committed. If leaders are semi-committed, is it fair for them to expect staff to be more committed?
The person leading the innovation had better have the expertise and be committed and supported. If not, the process will be a waste of time. If you have a large committee leading the project…good luck.
Many things need to be in place before considering introducing an LMS. A previous article outlined the need for correct staffing and expertise. This article outlines some of the planning, leadership and commitment requirements. Once you have these components organised, you can start the next phase – looking for an LMS that fits your requirements.
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